FBI takes over investigation of missing Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek employee
By JANE HARPER | The Virginian-Pilot (Tribune News Service) | Published: September 25, 2017
VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — FBI officials announced Monday they are offering a $10,000 reward for information that leads to missing 19-year-old Ashanti Billie.
"We want to get as good a resolution on this as we can as quickly as possible,” said Martin Culbreth, special agent in charge of the Norfolk FBI office.
Culbreth said his agency is taking the lead in the search for Billie. He spoke at a news conference, where he was joined by Virginia Beach Police Chief Jim Cervera, Norfolk Police Chief Larry Boone and Clifton Everton, special agent in charge of NCIS Norfolk. Billie’s parents, Brandy and Meltony Billie of Maryland, also attended.
All four agencies have been on the case since the beginning, with Virginia Beach police initially leading it, Culbreth said. But by having the FBI take over, they can add a significant amount of tools and resources not available at the local level, he said.
The news conference came several hours after Billie’s family and friends met with U.S. Rep. Scott Taylor at his office to ask for his help. Taylor promised to do all that he could, and cancelled a flight to Washington so he could start making calls on their behalf.
Billie’s parents told the congressman they were frustrated by the lack of information they were getting, and questioned why federal investigators were not more involved when the last place their daughter was seen was on a Naval base.
“They’re doing a good job but they have limited resources,” said Brandy Billie, Ashanti Billie’s mother, of local police. “The military’s arm can reach a lot farther.”
Ashanti Billie moved to Virginia Beach in August to attend culinary arts classes at the Art Institute of Virginia Beach. She shares a nearby apartment with three other students, and works as an assistant manager at a Blimpie sub shop on Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek.
She was scheduled to prep and open the shop on Sept. 18 but never showed up. She was reported missing after one of her co-workers called her cellphone and a strange man answered, saying he found the phone in a dumpster.
One of Billie’s roommates saw her leave the apartment around 4:20 or 4:30 a.m. that day, Brandy Billie said. The roommate said Billie was wearing a light-colored hoodie and black leggings with a Victoria’s Secret “Pink” logo on them, and was carrying a bag with her work clothes in it. Billie typically would change at the shop on days that she had to get there early to do the prep work, the mother said.
Billie drove up to one of the gates at the Naval base at 4:56 a.m., where her ID was scanned by a guard there, her mother said. Her cream-colored 2014 Mini Cooper was seen leaving the base 34 minutes later, but it could not be determined who, or how many, people were in the vehicle, she said.
Culbreth confirmed that the car was seen driving onto the base early that morning and leaving a short time later.
Billie’s phone was found in a dumpster at the corner of Tallyho Terrace and Azalea Garden Road in Norfolk later that morning. Her car was found Saturday afternoon in the 9500 block of Lakeside Drive in Norfolk. It was parked haphazardly, with the windows rolled down. A man who lives on the street said it had been there for several days.
The FBI asks that anyone with information about Ashanti Billie or circumstances involving her car to call 757-455-0100.
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